Saying "thank you" is our business when it comes to the corporate world. In a nutshell, my company helps companies find better ways to say it to their employees. Needless to say, communications and public speaking play a huge role in realizing that. A good general lesson I’ve learned is that simply saying "thank you" is not always enough. It can wear out its welcome, or worse, come off as insincere. Everyone can benefit from having multiple tactics for saying it.
There is quantifiable power in gratitude.
Basic kindness has real power. For example, in an NBC Season of Kindness Poll, 70% of the 2,650 adults surveyed said they would forgo a 10% raise for a kinder boss. In most areas of life, gratitude is always welcome and a requisite for getting things done smoothly. Whether or not a person says "thank you" after you do something for them is a much-relied-upon barometer for sizing up the intentions of others in life. We all intuitively recognize the phrase as a bar of social grace, and that’s what can complicate matters.
In our line of work, we try to quantify gratitude. We tally up plaudits by location and help companies understand why "thank you" isn’t cutting it in some places. From a communications perspective, we get to observe the interesting side effects gratitude has across large populations over time. One of those side effects is repetition and casualness in the way we say thanks.
We can get into a habit of saying "thank you" for everything. It becomes a reaction instead of an interaction. We forget to call out specific things. We stop identifying the real qualities we appreciate about the person or relationship. We become generic with our gratitude and important details -- the building blocks of genuine relationships -- are lost. The effects are insidious and easy to ignore.
Variety makes us tick.
In a 2014 LinkedIn post, renowned author and personal coach Tony Robbins identified six basic needs that make us tick, based on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs theory. Robbins argues that as much as we need certainty and comfort to be happy, we also need uncertainty and variety to grow.
People don’t want generic lives and eventually get tired of the same old thing. Our burning need to create new experiences that enrich our lives, what Maslow called self-actualization, is strong. To that point, how you communicate thanks is just as (if not more) important as remembering to do it in the first place.
Here are seven alternatives to 'thank you.'
Saying "thank you" in a slightly unexpected way is a minor speech adjustment with the potential to unlock a lot of good energy and elicit more sincere responses. It also establishes new lines of communication and, as a bonus, increases your personal mystique. These seven alternatives are great ways to catch people off guard and create deeper bonds. And they might make them feel better about themselves than a generic "thank you" would.
1. "I appreciate you."
2. "Let me know if you need anything else."
3. "Couldn’t have done it without you."
4. "You made this easy."
5. "You’re so helpful."
6. "What do you think?"
7. "I’m impressed!"
'Thank you' is still cool.
You shouldn’t take this to mean that saying "thank you" isn’t cool anymore. It’s still very cool, and if you like saying it, don’t ever stop. But what this all boils down to is that people need more than rote validation to feel fulfilled in a relationship. They need opportunities to self-actualize, as well as a touch of variety to offset certainty every now and again. Anything you say to a person over and over again to the same tune is going to lose its effect and turn into static over time. As Mr. Robbins might say, it’s about giving people the surprises they actually want.
A version of this article was previously published by Forbes